LASIK surgery is currently the most common refractive surgery, with the first procedure carried out in 1991 by Dr. Stephen Slade. The American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS) has estimated that over 40 million operations were carried out between 1991 and 2016.

The procedure involves physically reshaping the cornea tissue. It treats near-sightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism (abnormal shape of the cornea).

One of the common concerns that patients have about LASIK is how long the results last. The information below will answer whether LASIK is permanent, how long the surgery results last, and other related questions.

Is LASIK Permanent?

LASIK is a permanent and effective long-term eye correction treatment. The surgery involves physically reshaping the cornea altering the refraction of light into the eye.

The results of the procedures are expected to last between 10 and 20 years. Immediately following the procedure, over 90% of patients get 20/20 and 20/40 vision without requiring prescription glasses or contact lenses.

However, after 10 or 20 years, some patients may require glasses or contacts of a lower prescription due to natural eye aging.

The LASIK results should last until age 40 when natural age-related vision loss occurs. The corrective surgery can correct short-sightedness or far-sightedness; however, it cannot prevent age-related vision loss (presbyopia).

Some companies have also pioneered corrective enhancement surgery for age-related presbyopia to deal with age-related farsightedness.

What Affects LASIK Results and How Long They Last?

Several factors affect LASIK results and how long they last. These are:

Progression of myopia or hyperopia

Though LASIK permanently changes the shape of the cornea eliminating the imperfections related to poor vision, it may not stop the progression of existing myopia or hyperopia. Like all parts of the body, changes occur over the lifetime.

Refractive error

Patients with higher prescriptions before LASIK have higher chances of developing mild cases of myopia or hyperopia than they had. However, the required prescriptions are usually significantly lower.

Age

How old one is when undergoing LASIK significantly determines how long the results will last. Individuals’ eye prescriptions typically change yearly until around 20 years when vision settles.

Individuals who undergo surgery before their vision settles may require additional surgery to correct their vision to their ‘final’ prescription.

The significance of the patient’s age on long-term results of LASIK has promoted the 18 years of age requirement before the procedure in most places around the world.

Cataracts

Individuals with previous cataracts or a history of cataracts in the family may develop cataracts affecting vision after LASIK, thus requiring additional procedures to be carried out. Patients with a recent cataract history are discouraged from LASIK.

Will I Need Glasses or Contacts After LASIK?

Patients who receive LASIK treatment will not need to wear glasses or contacts. However, in some cases where the initial LASIK did not sufficiently correct the refractive error, patients may be required to use glasses with a lower prescription.

Patients who work in fields that require sharp vision, such as surgeons, engineers, and pilots, may require glasses following treatment. However, they may not require prescription glasses during their normal daily activities.

As mentioned above, LASIK corrects vision but cannot prevent age-related eye issues. Therefore, as patients age, especially after 40 years, they may require glasses to contact lenses to view close-up items or writings.

Patients over 40 years may notice that they develop blurred vision at close-up activities such as reading, requiring them to hold books further than the normal reading distance. It is referred to as presbyopia.

Will I need another LASIK or other follow-up procedures?

Patients who have undergone LASIK must have follow-up sessions depending on the surgeon’s practice, post-surgery examination, or if they still have issues with their vision.

Patients with problems after their initial surgery can have minor LASIK adjustments called enhancement procedures that can correct any remaining refractive errors.

Over 96% of patients are happy with the results, with only some special cases requiring additional procedures.

  • Patients with an initial high correction or astigmatism may require enhancement procedures compared to other patients.
  • Patients who had the procedure before their eye prescription settled may require additional corrections.

Despite the availability of enhancement procedures, specialists have noted that corneas that have been in position for over 3 years may develop vision-threatening complications after enhancement, such as epithelial ingrowth (abnormal tissue healing).

How Many LASIK Surgeries Can I Have Safely in The Future?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), there is no limit to how many LASIK surgeries or enhancement procedures one can have. However, the AAO adds that the thickness of your cornea limits the number of surgeries.

Every time the procedure is carried out, your cornea becomes thinner, limiting the safe amount the surgeon can remove the next time. Also, different eyes may have different cornea thicknesses restricting the number of surgeries.

Surgeons can also carry out alternate Refractive Surgery Procedures such as Advanced Surface Ablation Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) if the cornea becomes too thin for LASIK. Unlike LASIK, which reshapes by removing a piece of the cornea, PRK involves gently removing layers of the outer surface of the cornea.

Does LASIK Impact Future Vision Correction Options?

LASIK does not prevent other future vision correction procedures from being carried out. Patients can choose other eye correction procedures such as corneal implants, lens replacement, or mono-vision LASIK (one eye is corrected for distance and the other for reading).

However, patients should offer the surgeon a complete history of any prior surgeries before any additional procedures are carried out.

Final Thoughts

Overall, LASIK is a long-lasting procedure. The procedure results can last 10 to 20 years before additional enhancement procedures are required. However, LASIK does not prevent natural age-related presbyopia that occurs after 40 years of age.

Please consult a specialists with any questions about LASIK procedures and their results.